Tackling my TBR

Tackling My TBR: July 2020

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Tackling My TBR is a monthly post, where I share my reading plans for the upcoming month.

I’ve taken a little break with my TBR jar since my classes have started up again. I noticed that the busier I get with classes, the least likely I am to read books that I’ve picked out of the jar. I seem to prefer mood reading when I’m taking classes. However, I still wanted to share a TBR with you because there’s some great books I’m excited to read this month.

Wild Savage Stars by Kristina Perez: I adored the first book, Sweet Black Waves, and immediately bought the sequel when it released. However, I still haven’t read it! It’s just that the ending of Sweet Black Waves really left me heartbroken and I’m still not over it. With the third book releasing next month, I hope to finally crack the spine so I can maybe binge the two.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien: This will be a reread for me but I can’t wait. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before but Tolkien’s books are one of main reasons I’m a reader today. I discovered his work when I was middle school and fell in love with Middle Earth and everything Tolkien. I rarely reread books, but I’ve been wanting to reread The Lord of the Rings series for a long time so I’m starting with The Hobbit!

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler: A grumpy diner owner meets an excited tourist on the vacation of a lifetime. This one sounds so adorable and it’s set in Alaska, which is not a setting I usually read from. 

A Heart so Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer: I’m just not ready for my heart to broken—it’s in the title, so that must be what happens. A Curse so Dark and Lonely was one of my favorite books of last year. Though, Kemmerer changes course with this one as it’s in Gray’s point-of-view. I’m excited to see where the series will go from here, but will I ever be ready for it?

The End of Oz by Danielle Paige: I’ve been meaning to get to this one for a while. It the fourth and final book in the Dorothy Must Die series. To be totally honest, I enjoyed the first two in the series but lost some interest with the third. I hope the fourth ties everything together nicely. 

Pop Culture Readathon

This is a month-long readathon that I stumbled upon while watching some Youtube videos. It is created and hosted by Whitney from BooksWhitMe. There are several bingo boards to choose from and this round, the theme is 90s movies which is so awesome! I ended up choosing the Thrill Ride bingo board and will be working on making a bingo from there. The prompts I’m thinking of completing are below:

Candyman – book with supernatural creatures: The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh: I purchased this back when it first released and I still haven’t read it. I was so stoked at the idea of Ahdieh writing about vampires set in New Orleans (The Originals, anyone?). However, there has been so many mixed reviews that I’ve been super hesitant to pick it up. With the sequel released now, I definitely want to give it a try.

Blair Witch Project – book with a black or white cover: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman: I just started this one. It’s rather short so it shouldn’t take me long. I expect great things as Gaiman’s gorgeous whimsical writing coupled with mythology makes a great pair.

“What’s your favorite scary movie” – read a book by one of your favorite authors: Jane Anonymous by Laurie Faria Stolarz: It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a book by Stolarz. I absolutely have adored every book of hers. And since I’ve finished her backlist, I’ve been holding off with reading her newest. However, I just heard about her new release coming out next year, The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep, so I’ll definitely want to read Jane Anonymous before then.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – chosen one trope: Slayer by Kiersten White: The last book I read by White was And I Darken and it just wasn’t a book for me. However, a retelling of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is definitely something I need in my life. I’m a huge Buffy fan so I’m excited to see what Kiersten White does to the tale.

What are you reading in July?

book review

Gorgeous Spellbinding Plot | Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Friday, July 03, 2020

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

Flatiron Books
Publication Date: 7/7/20
Pages: 336
Source: publisher in exchange for an honest review
A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse... There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story. As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison. Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming...human or demon. Princess or monster.
The royal family harbors a secret. The prince’s twin sister, Soraya, is cursed with poisonous touch. With the help of the demon in the dungeon, she discovers there may be a way to end her curse. However, it comes at the price of betraying her family. Inspired by Persian mythology, Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust is an enchanting, dark tale of demons, romance, and sacrifice. 
  • I adored Girls Made of Snow and Glass so when I heard about a new tale Melissa Bashardoust was weaving, I knew it was going to be amazing. One of the most memorable things about her previous novel is the masterful way Bashardoust writes. Her flowery, whimsical prose leads perfectly to the fairytales she unfolds. Girl, Serpent, Thorn, of course, has Bashardoust’s signature writing style that flows so fantastically. 
  • The layers of Soraya’s character are well thought out and heartbreakingly realistic. Her ability of poisonous touch gives her power, yet of the monstrous kind. Bashardoust likens her to a sleeping serpent throughout the novel and all the images she creates makes Soraya’s character come alive. Soraya may be royalty as the current shah is her twin brother but she is royalty in name only. Due to the curse, she is kept away from the eyes of the people. Her isolation, loneliness, and silent seething over her circumstances were almost tangible. 
  • The beautiful prologue immediately grips you into the story. It is both strong and intriguing, giving readers a taste at what's to come. 
  • With Girls Made of Snow and Glass, she tackled Snow White, twisting the classic tale superbly. This new release, Girl, Serpent, Thorn, is inspired by Persian mythology. Bashardoust takes the original inspiration and makes it her own, creating a well-structured, strong story that is bound to enchant readers. I encourage you to read the author’s note at the end of the novel as Bashardoust discusses where her inspiration came from. There’s even further reading recommended—which I must check out now—as the tales sound so riveting. 
  • I haven’t read a fantasy in a while that focused on an array of demons. As I usually go into books without knowing much, I was pleasantly surprised that the tale involved a gorgeous world with creatures of the night. Plus, this novel sought to confuse readers with many morally grey characters, both demon and human. The characters were entirely unpredictable, making decisions I never saw coming. 
chris pratt mind blown GIF by Omaze
  • This book had my stomach in tangles. It was a wild rollercoaster that I never wanted to end. The twists and turns will most definitely have you at the edge of your seat. The pacing of Girl, Serpent, Thorn is at such a neck breaking speed that as soon as I tried to put it down, the story would pull me right back in. It's absolutely binge-worthy.
  • The ending just fell together so seamlessly. Every choice that Soraya has made has led to this one moment. It's high stakes and unbelievable. Bashardoust creates a nail biting ending that readers will never forget. 
With gorgeous writing, morally grey characters, and a spellbinding plot, Girl, Serpent, Thorn is definitely one of the best books I've read all year. 

kickin' it

Kickin' It: June 2020 Wrap Up

Thursday, July 02, 2020

June was a busy month! I started my summer courses for my Master’s program which has really been taking up all my time. Though, I did smuggle in some time to read a few amazing books! The world is starting to reopen, which is both exciting and terrifying. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy out there. In June, I finished a total of 11 books. Here’s what I read:

Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung Richmond (4 stars): Wow! This one was so charming and whimsical. I adored everything about this short story collection. It is also the highest rated anthology on my shelves. The stories focus on food and culture and each one weaves into the next as they all share the same setting. Absolutely adored it!

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi (4 stars): Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as Emergency Contact. Even though the two main characters’ banter was so well done, I felt besides that, they didn’t have much chemistry. However, Choi’s writing is still as phenomenal and I will most definitely be reading more from her. 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (7/7/20) (5 stars): I enjoyed Bashardoust’s debut, Girls Made of Snow and Glass, but this new release takes her writing to whole new level. It was adventurous, mysterious and swoon-worthy! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time!

99% Mine by Sally Thorne (4 stars): Definitely not The Hating Game, which is why I waited so long to read this. I found a few problems with it (mainly because the concept of a person being yours or mine isn’t really a mentality I follow). So, while I couldn’t put it down, it didn’t get full stars either.

Fullmetal Alchemist vol. 25-27 by Hiromu Arakawa (4.5 stars): It’s hard to believe that the series is over. If you’ve looking for a great series as your first foray into manga, definitely consider picking this one up. It has a little bit of everything. 

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran (3 stars): I adore reading dramatizations of historical real-life moments. That’s why I adored Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer so much. Moran was able to take historical facts and weave her own fictional story around them. This one follows Madame Tussaud; she is most famous for her life-like wax figures.

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon (7/28/20) (5 stars): I love love love this one! I’ve never read anything by Solomon before but you can bet I’m going to be working through her backlist until she writes more! This was absolutely fantastic! Third part love letter to Seattle, part scavenger hunt, and another part rivals-to-lovers story: this book will make you swoon.

Love at First Fight by Sandhya Menon (4 stars): This was such a cute novella that follows the gang we met in There’s Something About Sweetie as they go to a Valentine’s Day-themed escape room. Very short but undeniably adorable!

The Night County by Melissa Albert (4 stars): It’s been a while since I read the first one, The Hazel Wood. I adored the way Albert weaved the mix of fairytales inside a contemporary world. I went into this sequel expecting Jumanji but was pleasantly surprised when readers are given a mystery with a killer on the loose. The Night Country doesn’t read like a sequel as it takes characters further into Albert’s world. I believe this series ends here but there’s an upcoming short story collection about the Hazel Wood titled, Tales from the Hinterland (1/2021), which I will definitely be reading!

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin (4 stars): I purchased this on a whim because I enjoyed the movie by the same name and it sounded similar. The movie and this book are not related in any way, besides sharing a name. Also, I rarely read thrillers so I went into this not knowing what to expect. It follows a predictable storyline in the finance industry. And while I thought it was interesting and cleverly done (because most of the chapters take place inside an elevator, Goldin still found a way to make it riveting), I was hoping for a bit more from the ending.

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan (3 stars): I liked the concept of what the synopsis projected: girl who works at a theme park in a hot dog costume has a crush on a guy who also works at the theme park as a diving pirate, who is dating the princess of the theme park. That sounds like such an adorable time. Plus, there was a side-plot that the town must pitch in to save the theme park from closing (I adore save-the-town plotlines, because they always are so wholesome and lovely!). However, in order to get her crush to notice her, she creates a convoluted plan that (1) doesn’t make sense and (2) didn’t sit well with me. 

10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon (7/21/20): The third installment to the Dimple and Rishi series is here! This one follows Pinky, who we met in There’s Something About Sweetie, and if the novella, Love at First Fight, was any indication what’s in store for us, then this will definitely be a cute one!

Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay (7/21/20): This one sounds like a lovely novel of self-acceptance, of finding yourself, and also finding love. Chelsea discovers that the last time she truly lived was during her gap-year seven years ago. In an attempt to find herself, she intends to retrace her steps. I adore books like this, with travel and romance (definite ingredients for a great time).

Ever Cursed by Corey Ann Haydu (7/28/20): This is marketed as Damsel meets A Heart in a Body in the World and I’m very intrigued.

I haven’t been watching anything new. Most shows have taken a break for the summer so it’s just reruns all the time. During my free time, I’ve been obsessively watching the news for the latest coronavirus statistics. However, there have been some movie news that I’ve been following. It looks like the release of the live-action Mulan has been moved back which was a good call with everything that’s been going on. Tenet, directed by Christopher Nolan (director of Inception—which is one of my favorite movies of all time) just got its release date moved. That one looks so good! And I can’t wait for the release of Hamilton; the trailer dropped last week and it looks so amazing!

Mulan GIF by Walt Disney Studios

How was your June? Did you read any amazing books? Watch any cool shows or movies?

book review

Shines as Bright as the Stars | Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

Friday, June 26, 2020

Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: 2/13/18
Pages: 467
Source: purchased
Petty criminal Zara Cole has a painful past that’s made her stronger than most, which is why she chose life in New Detroit instead of moving with her family to Mars. In her eyes, living inside a dome isn’t much better than a prison cell. Still, when Zara commits a crime that has her running scared, jail might be exactly where she’s headed. Instead Zara is recruited into the Honors, an elite team of humans selected by the Leviathan—a race of sentient alien ships—to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passengers. Zara seizes the chance to flee Earth’s dangers, but when she meets Nadim, the alien ship she’s assigned, Zara starts to feel at home for the first time. But nothing could have prepared her for the dark, ominous truths that lurk behind the alluring glitter of starlight.
Zara Cole prefers the lawless streets of the Lower Eight, than a comfortable home in Paradise. Constantly in and out of rehab, escaping and being dragged back into confinement, all ever Zara wanted was her freedom.  When she is selected to become an Honor, she takes time to warm up to the idea. The Leviathans, the alien race that saved humans from extinction, hand-pick 100 humans to join them on The Tour, a year-long trek through space for scientific exploration. Zara cannot say it is an honor but begrudgingly leaves her home planet to embark on a journey of a lifetime. 

  • Science fiction is a genre that is completely outside of my comfort zone but I knew I just had to read Honor Among Thieves. The author duo, Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre, behind the book could only amount to greatness. Author of the Morganville Vampire series and the Ink and Bone series, Rachel Caine is one of my all-time favorite authors. Ann Aguirre is the author of the Razorland series which is a dystopian series that will seriously blow your socks right off. With amazing books like this, I had pretty high expectations going in and each and every one of them were met. The writing was seamless. I always wonder how author duos work together to create a magnificent work with one writing style. The writing was fast paced, jumping you right into the story.
  • This is set in the future when Leviathans help save humans from extinction only to ask for 100 Honors to travel the universe with them for a year. Especially in the beginning, it felt like a mix of The Hunger Games and Stranger Things. 
  • Honor Among Thieves is incredibly visual. The world is vast and sweeping and yet compact and easy to understand. Most of the story takes place on a space ship which also doubles as the Leviathan, a whale-like creature that lives in space. The description for this ship, how it operates, and how the human characters interact with it is so visually stunning and fantastic.
  • The characters are unforgettable. Zara’s backstory is believable and downright terrifying, making readers warm up to her quickly. The development of her relationships are so calculated that the characters feel as real as you and me (even the alien ones).
  • The world was fantastically detailed. There was minimal information dumping. Instead, readers were treated as if we were inside the story and already knew what happened. In building the world this way, it creates a connection between the story and its readers. 
  • The book plays with an awe inspiring notion that there is life beyond our knowledge just waiting to be found. The book also deals with conspiracy theories, government secrets and cover-ups. And it's all up to Zara to uncover the truth of what the Leviathans really want with the human race. Since that seems like a lot to undertake in just one novel, science fiction fans are in luck as Honor Among Thieves is the first in a series. You can bet I will be reading the second, especially after an ending like that. The ending gives you such a book hangover, I'm still reeling from it.
Overall, Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre shines as bright as the stars. With amazing characters, a visual-stunning world, and treasured writing, this book will be difficult to put down.  

Honor Among Thieves (2/13/18): 4 stars
Honor Bound (2/19/19): TBA
Honor Lost (2/11/20): TBA

book tag

The Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag (2020)

Friday, June 19, 2020

I've been doing this tag every year since I first found it. Check out last year's and 2018's post. It's always a blast to be able to go through all the books I've read so far in the year and discuss my favorites. As of today, I've read a total of 51 books. That's fewer than usual, but hopefully I can catch up this summer. I'm shocked that I only have 4 books rated 5 stars so filling out this tag was more difficult than usual. Let's chat about all the books I've read so far this year:

The best book you've read so far in 2020:

Girl Serpent Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust: This is such a surprise because as much as I liked Girls of Snow and Glass, her debut, I never could have guessed her next book would surpass everything I liked about the debut. It was on a whole different level and I loved every moment of it.

Your favorite sequel of the year:

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell: This reads as a sequel which is not necessarily a bad thing. I see a lot of negative reviews on this one about how there’s not much development among characters and not much happens. This is all true but the entertaining quality of the story is still there. It was a fun road trip-esque novel with my favorite duo, Simon and Baz.

A new release that you haven't read but really want to:

The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly by Jamie Pacton: I’ve been eyeing this one for a while. It follows a girl who works at Medieval Times, where she breaks out of the norm and tries to win the royal’s favor after jousting in an all-boy tournament. The synopsis says it better than I do. Either way, it sounds so adorable!

The Betrothed by Kiera Cass: Despite the many problems, The Selection series is still my number one answer when someone asks what books are my guilty pleasures. I’m hoping for the same with The Betrothed, even though I know nothing about it.

Beach Read by Emily Henry: I’ve seen a lot of people talking about this one. It follows two writers—one of romance and the other of literary fiction—who decide to swap genres while they are on vacation.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:

Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram (8/25): Darius the Great is Not Okay was one of my favorites from 2018. And I thought it was a standalone but was so surprised when this novel popped up. I’m looking forward to being with Darius again!

These Violent Delights by Chole Gong (11/17): This one is being pitched as a Romeo and Juliet retelling by way of the Godfather. I never knew I needed this in my life until I read the synopsis. It sounds absolutely remarkable!

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett (11/10): I adored Bennett's Serious Moonlight and The Lady Rogue, so I'm excited what else she has in store. While I'm waiting for this to release, I'll be slowly working my way through her back list. In Chasing Lucky, Josie returns home only to have her plans interrupted in a big way when she falls for the local bad boy.

Your biggest disappointment:

American Royals by Katharine McGee: I was hoping for a fluffy romance with royalty. Yet, I got royal Gossip Girl which isn’t really my thing. Plus, it followed four or five narratives, switching every chapter, and I had a difficult time remembering who’s who.

Biggest surprise of the year:

Switched by Amanda Hocking: This one has been on my shelf for years and the TBR jar told me this was the book I had to read that month so I gave it a go. It’s a fantasy adventure about a girl who just discovers she’s a troll princess. Like, what!? I’ve never read a book about trolls before, I don’t think. It was so much fun and I’m looking forward to the sequel.

The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd: A retelling of The Island of Doctor Moreau! I loved it so much!

Favorite new-to-you or debut author:

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon: There’s a scene in the show, Modern Family, where the two over-achievers, who’ve been competing against each other, fall in love and I’d always thought that storyline would make a great book. So, I’m so excited that Rachel Lynn Solomon wrote something like that. Plus, there’s a scavenger hunt! I can’t wait to read more of Solomon’s work as I adored this one.

A book that made you cry:

Night Spinner by Addie Thorley

A book that made you happy:

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

Favorite book-to-movie adaptation:

narnia GIF

The most beautiful book you bought/received this year:

The Night Country by Melissa Albert | Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust | Night Spinner by Addie Thorley

What are some books you need to read by the end of the year?

Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman | The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg | His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

I tag all of you! Let's chat about our favorites of the year so far!